There’s nothing quite like a super-fun hack with your fave pony, especially with friends on a sunny summer’s day. Hacking should be relaxing and enjoyable, but it can quickly become nerve-racking if your pony’s playing up and not listening to your aids.
Move on out
Napping is when your pony refuses to move in the direction you’re asking him to go – this can happen if he has to leave his friends. He might plant his feet, go sideways, or spin around. It’s a common problem for ponies to be reluctant to leave the yard to go on a hack, but it doesn’t have to stop your hacking. Here’s what you can do to solve it.
1. Go back to basics
Is your pony responsive to your leg aids? When you apply leg pressure, he should react straight away and move forwards – if he doesn’t, work on it in the school before going hacking. You can use upward and downward transitions to help with this, because they keep him focused and more responsive to your aids.
2. Use your schooling
Try a brief schooling session, including lots of transitions, before you go out hacking. With your pony in a schooling frame of mind rather than thinking about his friends, he’s more likely to move away from them without a fuss.
3. Take a friend
While your pony might not want to leave the yard on his own, he’ll be more willing if he has a friend with him. Ask someone on an experienced pony to come with you so your pony can follow them out of the yard without a fuss.
Napping is usually a behavioural problem, but it’s important to first rule out pain if it’s happening frequently. Back or tooth pain is a common cause of napping – your vet will be able to identify this.
Stop and stare
When your pony spooks, he’s reacting to something that’s scared him, such as a strange object, noise or movement. It’s important not to get cross with him, as this could make him more nervous. To deal with it…
- stay relaxed in the saddle It’s easy to tense up but staying relaxed helps you balance in the saddle as your pony spooks. If you’re nervous, it’s likely to make your pony worried, too
- let him investigate If he wants to look at the object and sniff it to work out there’s nothing to be afraid of, that’s fine. Once he’s had a look, walk past it calmly
- turn his head away If he’s really worried about something and doesn’t want to go past, turn his head away so he can’t see it. Keep him bent around your outside leg and push him past confidently. Look up and ahead to where you want to go, not at the spooky object
- ask for a lead A more confident pony can give you a lead past a scary object if yours really isn’t keen. Keep your legs wrapped firmly around his sides to encourage him to keep walking on
Remember to praise your pony once you’re past the object that’s spooked him to give him confidence.
Being out of control on a pony is never fun, especially if you’re in the open. Make sure you have control of the pony you’re riding in the school before you take him out hacking. Remember, if you can control him in the school, there’s no reason you can’t out in the open, too.
Use half-halts to keep him listening to you – don’t keep pulling on the reins or he’ll just pull back harder. If you’re in a field, riding circles are a great way to get back in control – it’s much easier for ponies to run if they’re in a straight line.
Always let an adult know where you’re planning to go and when you expect to be back.
While it’s easy to get cross with your pony for misbehaving, it’s often the rider who affects how he reacts to things. If you feel nervous and tense, your pony’s likely to feel the same. Trying to be more relaxed and confident – even if you don’t really feel it – will help you overcome problems much more easily. You can do this by…
- taking deep breaths in and out to help your body stay relaxed
- chatting to a friend to take your mind off any nerves
- smiling – it’ll relieve any tension and help you feel more confident
Use a neck strap on your pony for extra security – it’ll give you something to grab onto if the unexpected happens.